October 17, 2014

Getting Outside – Preschool Trip to Shelburne Farms

Posted in Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , , , , at 6:27 am by Lund

The kids were ready to go long before the car seats were strapped into the van and the snacks packed up.  Going on field trips is always exciting and this one particularly so – Shelburne Farms!  Six preschoolers, LECP teacher Collin Cope, Cristin Manner, a Behavioral Interventionist from the HowardCenter who works in the Lund preschool classroom twice a week, one parent and one enthusiastic field tripper from Development loaded into the van and set off to have fun on the farm.  We rode the tractor down from the Welcome Center to the Children’s Farmyard where we were met by Rachel Cadwallader-Staub, educator at Shelburne Farms, who helped the preschoolers to understand  gentle ways to touch the animals.  Then we visited the cows, sheep and goats before settling down on a log to watch the parade of chickens come out of their coop for the day.   The kids then went into the chicken coop to collect eggs and see the chickens who weren’t quite ready for the day yet.  They were enthusiastic in their egg hunting, feather petting and chicken feeding.  Then we hit the playroom which was filled with farm toys, a tractor to climb on, hobby horses to ride and all manner of other exciting things that made it a hard place to leave.  The kids had a great time exploring the different toys and I began to wonder how we would ever convince them to leave the room.  It was going to take something pretty special.  How about milking a cow?

"I heard that there were preschoolers out there.  I might just stay in here."

“I heard that there were preschoolers out there. I might just stay in here.”

Collin, who spearheaded the trip, gathered the kids together.  He made them all sit on the floor and sat right down with them.  Once all were quiet and seated (it was not instant as I’m sure you can imagine) he handed them each a plastic vegetable to hold and told them about the really exciting and special thing they were going to be allowed to do.  The kids listened and focused on Collin because he was down on their level making each of his words exciting, speaking low and slow and had given them something to hold to take away the temptation of grabbing at the toys.  He carefully laid out the next steps the kids would have to take – stand up, hold a specific adult’s hand, walk out of the room to the stone wall by the cow.  If the kids deviated from the plan, they were gently reminded and redirected.  No one cried, no one made a break for the tractor, everyone was in control and ready for the next thing.  All the kids made it to the cow and stood quietly waiting as the farmer explained how the milking would work.  They they each had a chance to milk the cow. It was impressive to watch how Collin handled the kids and set them up for a successful transition.

Milking the cow

Milking the cow

“Field trips are important because they expose the kids to experiences they might not be getting at home,” says Collin.  “It gives them a break from the routine of school and gets them out into the community where they can meet new people and interact with them.  It allows them to make connections to real life.  We read books and sing songs about chickens but on the farm they can see chickens, touch them, feel them and connect to the reality of what they have been learning about.  But the most important thing is that it is really really fun!”

By the time we all loaded back up on the wagon to head  to the parking lot, the scene was a little different.  Every child was crying at some point, there was distinct deviation from the instruction to sit properly on the seats.  Hunger and fatigue were settling in.  The other riders on the wagon pretty quickly lost their warm grins.  But without batting an eyelid, Collin and Cristin patiently and lovingly helped the kids to remember what they needed to be doing.  Hunting for bees’ nests in the trees, telling silly stories about people losing their hats and the promise of cheese at the farm shop helped the wagon ride go as smoothly as a wagon being pulled by a tractor on a dirt road can go.  The kids probably didn’t notice the magnificent view of Camel’s Hump over a cobblestone of autumnal trees or hear the honking of a seam of geese sewn across the sky but all of them knew that they had done something special that day.   They might only remember one thing – milking the cow, petting a chicken, bumping along behind the tractor, the sharp taste of cheddar on a stick – but buried down in their brains there will also be the knowledge that they had teachers who were willing and excited to take them out to see the big, bright world.

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